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Military Installations

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British military commanders invested much time and effort converting the entire Rock into a huge limestone fortress. Every available nook and cranny was effectively converted into a defensive position to deter any potential attack from any direction, whether by land or sea. The rocky knoll overlooking Camp Bay was no different.

After 1704, the old Moorish walls, badly neglected during the Spanish period, were repaired and improved and a gun battery – the 9th Rosia Battery – consisting of two 18-pounder and 12-pounder guns was placed strategically on the rocky knoll that dominated both Camp Bay and Rosia Bay. By 1744, there were over 20 guns covering Rosia Bay - a small but strategically natural harbour for the British fleet as it was well out of range from Spanish mainland batteries.

The battery was first referred to as Parson’s Lodge Battery in 1771. The name for this battery was probably in reference to the hermitage of St. John the Green (San Juan el Verde) which stood in the area of the Vineyards. Another hermitage, known as Los Remedios, situated on the site of the Old Naval Hospital may have also contributed to the colloquial name. A panoramic sketch by Flemish topographical artist Anton van Wyngaerde shows two towers on the rocky knoll – known as Los Remedios and San Juan el Verde. The hermitages of Los Remedios and San Juan el Verde can be seen just behind these towers, hence the name given to the knoll. A third much larger tower known as La Torre del Tuerto can be seen further South.

Panoramic sketch of Gibraltar from the South by Anton van Wyngaerde, 1567.

During the Great Siege, the guns of Parson’s Lodge Battery ensured Eliott’s garrison remained adequately supplied throughout the three-and-a-half-year siege.

The strategic importance of the Rosia area for the Royal Navy was not lost with the Admiralty. The Genoese architect Giovanni Maria Boschetti was commissioned to construct the Rosia Water Tanks and Victualling Yards behind Parson’s Lodge in 1804 and 1812 respectively. It was here at Rosia Bay that on the 28th October 1805, the severely battered HMS Victory was towed in with the body of Admiral Nelson on board in order to undergo emergency repairs.

HMS 'Victory' Towed into Gibraltar, 1805 by William Stuart (National Maritime Museum).

During the course of 19th Century, the defences at Parson’s Lodge were upgraded on several occasions. In 1842, the battery comprised of eight guns. In 1868, the present impressive stone structure was built, and in 1884, the battery was equipped with three 10-inch 18-ton RMLs, each protected by laminated iron embrasures known as ‘Gibraltar Shields’. Smaller calibre guns, set within tunnels under the battery, covered both Rosia and Camp Bay. Together with the 100-ton gun at the Napier of Magdala Battery, Parson’s Lodge Battery dominated the approaches to the Bay of Gibraltar from the south-west.

Gibraltar Shield & 10-inch 18-ton Rifle Muzzle Loading Gun, Parson’s Lodge.

Before 1880, access to Camp Bay was only possible by a gate and wooden ladder. With the planned expansion of the dockyard, a narrow tunnel for a one-metre gauge railway was built under the knoll in order to reach the Europa Quarry nearby. With this tunnel, rock quarried from Camp Bay and Little Bay could be transported by railway directly to the dockyard rather than by sea.

Scottish soldier guarding the Camp Bay Ladder entry point.

During the Second World War, Parson’s Lodge became a critical defensive position once more. Several searchlight positions were positioned on the knoll, as well as a Bofors light AA gun. For their protection, a number of temporary shelters were erected. They were known as ‘elephant shelters’ from the shape the corrugated iron which formed the basis of their construction.

Two 6-pounder guns and several machine gun positions were emplaced within Parson’s Lodge for use against enemy forces attempting to land in Camp Bay or Little Bay.

Meanwhile, above Little Bay, men of the 180 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers excavated a series of machine-gun positions within the cliff face itself. Access to this subterranean fort was by a means of a foot tunnel leading to Little Bay from Europa Flats above.

6-pounder gun emplacement.

Little Bay Fort defensive openings.

The imminent threat of invasion resulted in even more underground excavations carried out in the area. To protect vital drinking water facilities for the garrison 178 Tunnelling Company of the Royal Engineers excavated the reservoirs for the Glen Rocky reverse osmosis water distillation plant just above Camp Bay. The excavations, which were completed by February 1941, removed 7,000 tons of rock to create a chamber 32.9m x 9.9m x 8.2m in size. Additionally, a fuel chamber was also excavated at the same site. Two water intakes were constructed just off the Camp Bay jetty with salt-water pumped up to the site by a shaft up to North Gorge where the original distillation plant operated, only later did the entire plant facilities operate from Glen Rocky.

Royal Engineers Tunnelling Companies at work, November 1941.

The iconic Camp Bay ‘waterfall’ that appears from the rock face above the Europa Pool is in fact the outfall for the brine residue of the distillery once constructed.

Today, Glen Rocky provides around 300,000m3 per annum of potable water in addition to 330,000m3 of non-potable water supplying the MOD with all their present water requirements for human consumption, sanitary purposes and firefighting.      

Parson’s Lodge Battery was decommissioned by the military by 1956, but only handed over to Government in 1994. Presently the site is run by the Gibraltar Museum.

Outfall for the Glen Rocky Distillery.

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